The cards are split into two categories, The Major Arcana and The Minor Arcana.
The Major Arcana consists of 21 cards:
Wheel of Fortune
The Hanged Man
The Minor Arcana consists of four sets of fourteen cards from Ace to King in Wands, Swords, Cups,Pentacles.
The cards can be read in a standardised manner, according to each literal meaning of each card. I find this a little restricting so I interpret the cards with instinct and linking each one to the following, this tells a story of what is going on in your life, the ups and downs, the good and not so great, it always gives a conclusion and often offers assistance.
The Celtic Cross is probably the oldest and most popular pattern for reading the tarot. It has survived so long because the layout of the cards is simple, but powerful. A strong energy has built up around this spread due to its use by so many people over the years.
This cross has a circle linking the four perpendicular spokes. The circle and cross symbolize the joining of spirit and matter and the unity of all events in time.
The feminine energy of the circular section works in unison with the masculine energy of the Staff section. These two parts of the Celtic Cross mirror the dual nature of manifested reality – the polarities that abound in the human psyche.
The Circle/Cross section is made up of two crosses – a central one (two cards) nested within a larger cross (six cards). The smaller cross represents the heart of the matter – what is most central to you at the time of the reading. It is the hub around which the wheel of your life is turning.
The larger cross consists of two lines that overlay the minicross. The horizontal line shows time moving from your past on the left into your future on the right. The vertical line is your consciousness moving from your unconscious on the bottom to your conscious mind on the top. Together these six cards give you a snapshot of your inner and outer environment at the time of a reading.
The cards of the Staff section comment on your life and lie outside of the immediate situation. You receive guidance about yourself and others, your life lessons and your future direction.